Crisis of leadership

Three Armenian community events took place last February in France that were supposed to be indicators of the vitality of the French Community. Yet, on the contrary, they demonstrated the deplorable state of its representative bodies. Sadly, the situation of the Armenian community in France reflects that of the Diaspora and the Nation as a whole.

Last week was an eventful week for the Armenian community in France. Three important events took place. The first was the annual dinner of the CCAF with the expected participation of President Macron, the second was the election of the diocesan Primate and the third was the visit of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs of Armenia, Zareh Sinanian to France. Three events which were supposed to be indicators of the vitality of the community, but which, on the contrary, demonstrated the deplorable state of its representative bodies. In the case of the CCAF, this body responsible for the coordination of Armenian associations in France, considers two associative structures as competitors, and it reproaches the High Commissioner for having cooperated with them.

Common sense – not to say a certain open-mindedness – would dictate that the CCAF, if it is truly the representative council of Armenian associations in France, should not be concerned about other organizations “stepping on its toes”. Where does this lack of self-confidence come from? Moreover, how is it that some of the member associations of the CCAF, despite its intransigent position, have not refused to welcome the High Commissioner of the Diaspora? The position of the CCAF undermines the dignity of the Armenians of France before the French authorities. By rejecting a high official representing Armenia, the body that is supposed to represent the Armenians of France has failed in its mission of intermediation and representation. The CCAF has complained that the attitude of the High Commissioner is detrimental to the unity of Armenians. But would the refusal of the High Commissioner’s participation in the official dinner sponsored by the President really serve the unity of Armenians? The position of the CCAF demonstrates a serious crisis of representation and inaction.

It is known that the mind and nature abhor a vacuum. The same is true in public life. When a representative body is only concerned with organizing its annual dinner and the April 24 demonstrations, it cannot stand up to other organizations that propose initiatives in various fields, such as the economy, culture, immigration, fundraising, the press and others. Fortunately, the Armenian Embassy has maintained a very positive and balanced position in this matter. As the representative of the Armenian state, it could have refused to participate in the annual dinner if the High Commissioner of the Diaspora had not attended. Through diplomatic channels, it could have demanded of the French authorities that the High Commissioner attends. In this case, the public disgrace at the state level would have really damaged the reputation of the CCAF.

As for the diocesan elections, the list of the three candidates approved by the Catholicos was characterized by a lack of transparency. In fact, one of the candidates was eliminated from the electoral race, and in his place another, completely inappropriate candidate was parachuted in from Armenia. The biggest loser in this election was the incumbent Primate, Vahan Hovhannessian, who initially had been right in deciding not to participate in the elections, but under pressure from His Holiness, was finally forced to run for his own succession. Unfortunately, he suffered a crushing defeat. Why was the outgoing Primate forced to run again? Just to prevent Gourgen Aghababian get included in the list of three, because Aghababian had had the modesty to announce that he would present his candidacy only when the outgoing Primate withdrew his own. We wish the new Primate, Father Krikor Khatchatrian, courage to govern the Diocese independently in the service of the Armenian community in France.

Nor Haratch, N° 291
17 February, 2022

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